Italy, September-October, 2006

The quality of wine. Chapter IV

  • The seasonal trend was better than in 2013; it wasn’t as hot and we had fewer days of rain, but a very high amount of rainfall. Also this winter I didn’t manure the vineyards, as I consider it very harmful to grape quality to do so, given the enormous quantity of water on the surface: giving the plant the chance to absorb nutrients in the top layer of soil, instead of forcing the vine to look for nutrition deep down is, in my opinion, very harmful to grape quality.

    I continued the groundwater management works in the vineyard and I would like to thank professor Trinchero from the Polytechnic of Turin who, with his staff, began studies on my subsoil, searching for the existing quantity of water, up to a depth of ten metres (the first stage of this research was presented at the Soldera Award on 20th February 2015, at Montecitorio Palace), which enabled me to dig 2.5-metre ditches in order to drain the water to the external part of the vineyards. It is a very complex and time-consuming job, but I believe it is indispensable in order to rebalance and consume the water that nature has provided in excess, in these last eight years, with respect to the situation in the 1990s.

    Think of the expert from the CNR (National Research Council), Bernardo Gozzini, who wrote in the Corriere della Sera of 6/11/2014 “[…] the sea’s temperature is about two degrees above the seasonal average[…]a 2014 that risks being one of the five hottest years since 1880” and according to ISAC-CNR “we have witnessed the hottest October since the nineteenth century and an anomaly of 3.2 degrees higher than average during the period 1971-2000[…] last Wednesday – 5/11/2014 – in Florence the high temperature was 23 degrees, about 7 degrees more than the historic average, which is not low”.

    Carrying out these groundwater management works, I remembered that my great-grandfather had fields of about half a hectare, edged with deep ditches on all four sides and sloping towards the four ditches, there were also hedges and trees lining the ditches which limited the hot and cold winds: this has proved to me once again that the farmers knew their land well and knew perfectly well what could give and maintain the quality of their products over time. I believe we should learn to maintain the balance of the soil, the water and the plants by no longer thinking of the use of soil in an extensive and intensive way, also to obtain healthier products in both senses (the number of allergies is an alarming sign for human health).

    Good news from the citizens in the municipality of Malles in Alto Adige (from “la Repubblica” of 09/09/2014), who, with a referendum passed with a 75% majority, decided to ban the use of pesticides in the whole area of the municipality. Unfortunately, 175 thousand tonnes of pesticides are still used in Italy and, as Professor Claudio Porrini from the University of Bologna states, the death toll of bees due to pesticides is causing serious damage to the environment. We hope that other municipalities will follow the example of Malles and that the teachings of the old farmers will also be adopted by the younger ones (the langhetti friends, Barolo producers for years, fight against deforestation and the planting of vineyards in unsuitable areas). I would also like to remind everyone that we are all what we eat and drink, as Michael Pollan writes in his books “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”.

    I finished pruning with the disinfection and cicatrisation of each cut, within the foreseen time span, and I managed to work all the vineyards, including manual hoeing of all the vines, which, in my opinion, is absolutely indispensable for obtaining excellent grapes. We started to sort out the staking and stretching of the wires so that the vines are stable and ready to sustain plant development.

    55 years have gone by since Adriano Olivetti died and Rai Tre, in the history programme “Storia”, remembered the figure of this great Italian genius who modernised industry, economy, society, overtaking capitalism and socialism, architecture, education and science: the works and thoughts of Olivetti should, in my opinion, be studied in every school and university. In these times of profound change, Adriano Olivetti’s example should be carried on by politicians capable of changing relationships with and between citizens.

    The scandal of the milk quotas has flared up again, as the European Union has asked for payment; in a report of October 2014, the Court of Auditors writes that the collection of taxes has not been activated. The current situation is as follows: Italy has paid 4 billion, 494 million euros, 4.2 billion of which at the expense of the taxpayer (and not those who should have paid the fines, i.e. the defaulting milk producers) and at the end of 2014, 2207 billion still had to be paid by the breeders, 460 million of which were not collectible and/or unrecoverable, 286 million paid and 466 million divided into instalments; 1347 billion euros remain. For this figure, the minister Martina has said he has sent 1455 collection notices, also stating that “the Northern League has speculated on breeders.” The above comes from an investigation that the journalist Sergio Rizzo wrote on Saturday 28th February 2015 in the Corriere della Sera.

    Also in the Corriere della Sera of 28th February 2015, an inquiry by the journalist Francesco Alberti denouncing “the fish predators that are destroying the Po river”: bands from Eastern Europe are raiding the river at night with huge nets, chemical substances and stun guns. The alarm is: “We are risking an environmental disaster!”. The price of fish is 0.10 cents per kg (10 euros per quintal) on the black market.

    I am very worried by the news of these facts, which create enormous environmental damage over time and are very difficult to tackle.

    I have deliberately left the good news to last, about my friend Roberto Rossi, owner of the Silene di Pescina restaurant in Seggiano, who has been awarded his first Michelin star: congratulations and best wishes for this great success!

    What do you think?